The dark at the end of the funnel: The pipeline in computing education leads to a sewage plant

November 29, 2014 at 8:32 am 2 comments

Recommended blog post from Neil Brown, in response to comments from Mark Zuckerberg that the problem with getting more women into computing is solved by getting computing education earlier.  It’s not.  It used to be that we’d say, “Women aren’t going into computing because they don’t know what it is.”  Now we’d say, “Women aren’t going into computing because they know exactly what it’s like. Smart women.”

However, this is not solely an issue with the education system though that would be a familiar narrative — work force not as we would like it? Must be the fault of schools and universities. The pipeline or funnel doesn’t just need filling by shoving lots of 5 year old girls in one end and waiting for the hordes of female developers to swim out of the other end into an idyllic tech industry pool. Zuckerberg mentions that the lack of women in the industry forms a vicious cycle. This is not a problem at the education end of the funnel.

As this Fortune article describes, the industry is not welcoming to women. The Anita Borg Institute found that women’s quit rates were double those of men. Not to mention issues like maternity leave. The pool at the end of the pipeline is leaking, and for good reason. So the vicious cycle is not simply an accident of history; the women that are in the industry tend to leave. There are several reasons for this, some of which are identity and culture in the industry.

via The dark at the end of the funnel | Academic Computing.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , .

Time spent is about expertise developed: Programmer productivity is an education problem Do We Need a Title IX for IT Workers?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  November 29, 2014 at 11:46 am

    A sociologist colleague of mine made an interesting observation that the culture of hostility toward women is reinforced by the overall culture of the industry. Lean and agile processes often eliminate the bureaucracy that provides the only mechanism for women to report abuse or harassment safely. Pervasive entrepreneurship that encourages people to “break things” ignores the bias that white men are given more leeway when those attempts fail. And the youth culture (i.e., ageism) allows people who have never worn “their big boy shoes” (her words, which I love) to have an inappropriate amount of power and control.

    Basically, the idea that the industry should be designed to be efficient, energetic, and rapidly innovative encourages a culture in which antisocial and misogynist individuals thrive.

  • 2. Kathi Fisler  |  November 29, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I missed seeing this on Neil’s blog when he originally posted it — thanks for the pointer.

    Your gamergate post got me started thinking about the role of identity; this post reinforces the identity question. I encountered it again last week listening to a recent episode of the On Being podcast, which was about the identity issues that lead youth into terrorism (episode with Scott Atran — I found it interesting to hear about the way that friendships and social identity, more than the typical assumed predictors (such as attending certain religious schools), influence students towards participation in terrorism. The broader lessons about human dynamics seemed to speak to things we discuss here about computing culture as well. Worth a listen.



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